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First of its kind; remembering the early days of Shannon Free Zone

When: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 17:45

70 years ago on Saturday March 18th, the world’s first duty free shop was opened at Shannon Airport by Dr Brendan O’Regan (1917-2008), a native of Sixmilebridge in County Clare. The resourceful businessman conceived of the idea, recognising that the surge in international air travel after the Second World War could generate significant revenue. Targeting trans-Atlantic passengers travelling between North America and Europe, O’Regan’s enterprise began as a modest kiosk retailing Irish Linen products and other locally produced gifts and souvenirs. The introduction of international brands at duty prices brought instant success, and O’Regan’s model was ultimately replicated in airports around the world.

Brendan O’Regan was also a central figure in establishing Ireland's only regional development agency, Shannon Development, in 1961. Its mandate was to generate sources of business and traffic through Shannon Airport. In 2014, the Shannon Development Photographic Archive was donated to UL by Shannon Airport Authority. Comprising photographs, press clippings and other documents, this rich collection charts the evolution of the agency, as well as the touristic, industrial and social evolution of the Mid-West region during the latter half of the twentieth century.

The Glucksman Library is committed to the digitisation of the photographic element of the collection, which numbers in the region of 150,000 negatives. We have shared a selection of images from the  archive on the Glucksman Library's Instagram and Twitter feeds.